Describing Va$htie Kola as “hip-hop’s renaissance woman” feels lazy at this point.The director/designer/consultant/influencer has been putting her unique stamp on the game for more than five years now, boasting a resumé that makes her impossible to definitively peg. Past collaborators include Kanye West, Solange Knowles and the Jordan brand, the latter with whom the Albany, New York, native recently joined forces with to design her own Jordan sneaker, becoming the first female ever tapped to do so. Last week, she sent shockwaves through the internet with a tweet believed to be a subliminal shot at Beyoncé, who recently referred to herself as “King Bey." Va$htie, who promoted parties in NYC for years under the moniker “King Va$htie," wrote, “Its so entertaining that broads are referring to themselves as “KING…” now. its cute…” XXL got up with the woman who sets trends to discuss creative integrity, homophobia in hip-hop and why she’d rather be a king than a queen. —Calvin Stovall Recently, Beyoncé starting calling herself "King Bey," which seemed to be inspired by you calling yourself "King Vashtie" for years. As a creative person, where do you draw the line between being inspired by something and biting it?

Vashtie Kola: It’s tricky. It’s a thin line. It’s very hard to kind of straddle that. You always wanna be inspired by the things around you. And if there’s something that strikes you as an artist that strikes you and inspires you, it’s important to give enough of an homage to what it is that you’re trying to emulate. But I don’t know. It’s a tricky line. It’s really important to get feedback from other artists around you and always try and review what it is that you put out there so it’s never infringing on the rights of the artists that you’re being inspired by… I think that all artists go through that. It’s one of those things. There’s nothing new under the sun. People get inspiration from everywhere they look.

It’s been rumored that you’ve been the muse for a few notable artists. Do you have a muse of your own?

Yeah, I’m always inspired by rebels. People who are kind of in their own lane and make their own path and aren’t really concerned about what everyone else is doing. That’s always inspiring. And I think in general, masculinity has always inspired me, [like] the way they carry themselves and their style. And even the athletics. I think that kind of mentality has always inspired me to be a little bit tougher. So in general that world has always inspired me.

Speaking of masculinity, where did the “King Va$htie” thing originate?

Well, it pretty much originated for me in high school. In the bible there’s a Queen Va$htie. I remember my boyfriend at the time was like, “You’re my queen.” And I was like, “No, there’s already Queen Vashtie. I’m King Vashtie.” So it kind of started from that and it just became a new thing… King Vashtie was the first alias I used in work, especially in the New York party-sphere starting in 2003 and continuing with the start of [the] “1992” [parties] in 2006...I've always had a dislike for feminine monikers like Queen, Princess, Babydoll, etc. As a tomboy I just always wanted to be one of the guys.

Is there something specific about your life that’s made masculinity so interesting to you?

I think that in general I’m just a tomboy. I’ve always just been interested in doing tomboy things. I think that I just was less coordinated— like the girls in school were doing double-dutch, and I couldn’t jump double-dutch… And the boys wanted to play games of like touch football or whatever. Although I’m not very athletic, I was just more interested in just kind of hanging out with the boys and that kind of thing. Hanging out and just having fun and not being so girly, I guess. It’s hard to describe. And I think as I got older, those are the things I was interested in. I was interested in skateboarding or BMXing. A lot of guy friends were interested in that. But I think as a girl who loves guys, there’s also something that I admire about men; just masculinity in all its different forms. And I think maybe also just having a very masculine, over-bearing father maybe. Just seeing the dynamic of my mom and my dad.

What was your dad like?

My dad was pretty aggressive and just kind of very masculine. And my mom was the opposite. I always felt as the youngest child and as someone who kind of watched that dynamic. I always wanted to be very strong and very on top of what I was doing. And I didn’t want my femininity or me being a girl (to) ever have an effect on what it was that I was doing. I definitely did not ever want to hear, “You can’t do that because you’re a girl.” So I think just having that kind of mindset of wanting to be viewed as an equal and also treated as an equal made me want to, I guess, express that.